On one side, the documents were seen as insignificant and stale: the FBI had previously handed them over to outside inspectors, the agency said, and a federal judge had already ruled that some of them had been properly described to Flynn’s legal team.

But others felt that the documents, some of which had apparently not been given to Flynn in full, should have been turned over. Some of the lawyers involved fear that by not making clear that there was no misconduct, the department has left them open to disciplinary action.

As prosecutors prepared to disclose the documents to Flynn’s attorneys, an early draft of a cover letter included language saying that the Justice Department didn’t believe the documents had been previously wrongly withheld, the officials said.

But that language, which prosecutors said is not uncommon in similar circumstances, was removed by officials overseeing the final draft, and it did not appear in the version of the letter that was later made public in a court filing.